Priscilla sat, quietly rocking on the front porch. She searched the pale blue horizon until her eyes ached. Then, she saw a cloud of dust and heard the rustling of the wagon in the distance. The rumors of her death were premature, and her folks came to see their eldest daughter, as if she'd been resurrected from the wilderness.
Forced to be a child bride at the age fourteen, she had plunged into the Platte River from a honeymoon carriage, not caring whether she lived or died. But freedom won that day. The price was a perilous journey eastward along the Oregon Trail, hoping to find Aunt Kate and her family in St. Joseph Missouri. She had survived the outlaw country and natures wrath. Tried by God's blue flame, it made her stronger, strong enough to face the family that had given her away in marriage to the self-proclaimed prophet, Nathaniel.
Earnestly, she waited for this day to come. From the slap of the front door and the cluck of her heels, she knew Aunt Kate approached. She rested her hands over Priscilla's shoulders.
Priscilla strained forward and caught a glimpse of the prairie schooner and the mules stepping in stride. Was it true? Had they finally shaken the spell of that wretched man?
As the wagon drew closer, she studied her parents ragged and weathered faces. Suddenly, Priscilla discovered a swell of pregnant tears bursting from the rim of her chocolate eyes. As they fell down her rose-colored cheeks, she stood firm, bravely adjusting her petticoat. She resisted the urge to run, instead holding up her skirt from the dirt, she walked steadily toward them. She walked as bravely as she did, when she was forced to marry the man they once worshipped.
Her little sisters leaped from the covered wagon! Blue bonnets tied beneath their chins, they ran with sun drenched happy faces.
The mules skidded to a halt. Hunched over the reigns, the father struggled to climb down. The mother choked and sobbed in a well of tears. Her husband gathered and lifted her off the buckboard.
Priscilla's sisters stormed into her as she crouched down. She drew them in like a hen gathers her chicks. Then, she rose up with them, as a hot spring geyser of hope to a boundless sky.
Her mother, with bone thin trembling hands, cupped her daughter's face "I can't believe it. I thought I'd never live to see this day. You...you, alive and well! Oh my Lord in heaven. He does answer prayer. He surely does." She flooded Priscilla's neck with tears and kisses, unable to speak further.
The father held the rim of his hat and plucked his suspenders between his thumb and forefinger. He swiped the silver hair from his eyes, squinting in the sun. As he stumbled toward his daughter as if drunk on fear, he fell to his knees and clutched her ankles. "It were all my fault." he shook his head in shame.
Priscilla rested her hand on his thin hair. He closed his eyes, not knowing if Priscilla would slap him, not knowing if she would spit on him. "Pa," she said, as raw tears stung her face. "You came to find me now. Your love has made this journey. This had been my dream, that one day you would earnestly look for me. That is what speaks of love, not words like embers that soon grow cold."
He looked up at her, and then clutched her long flowing dress. "It would please me no end, if I could one day, truly walk you down the aisle, all prim and proper; you, in a snow-white gown and all."
Priscilla helped her father up, and hugged his neck, remembering when she was a child, how he held his girl's tender as a feather, afraid they might get lost in a mischievous wind. Gone, she sensed was the spitfire from his soul, emptied of the man he used to be, as if carved and hollowed out by that hellfire bastard.
"We can start a brand new life here. We have left the false prophet. Only a few ne'er-do-wells stay in Happy Valley. He drowns his misery in moonshine, looking shriveled up as an old hickory stump."
Priscilla's heart thumped hard in her chest to see her father broken. But then, she saw the lost child of her own reflection in his sad wet eyes.
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